POLITICS
04/25/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Snowe To Obama: Budget And Economic Recovery Are Separate

President Obama has pitched his budget as crucial to the economic recovery, a case he made again Tuesday night during a primetime press conference. Senator Olympia Snowe isn't buying it.

For Snowe, a Maine Republican whose centrist leanings put her at the crux of the debate, it's just a budget and needs to be debated on its own merits.

"The president said last night that this budget was essential to the recovery, but I don't know that you can make that strict" connection, she said without prompting.

Snowe, speaking to the Huffington Post just off the Senate floor, said that she understood the interconnectedness that Obama was implying, but wasn't convinced by the argument that it's a specific part of the recovery.

"There are so many things that we have done on behalf of the recovery and rescue of the financial institutions. I think this has to be in its own compartment because it's obligating future generations in terms of indebtedness," she said.

Obama makes the case that putting off energy and healthcare reform and failing to help the middle class in the past made it vulnerable to the financial meltdown that came later. Even as productivity and wealth increased, average workers' wages stayed flat over the past decades. In order to keep up, folks sank into credit card debt and refinanced mortgages. When that easy credit dried up as housing prices fell, consumers were left with little spending power and often were unable to meet mortgage payments.

Workers without healthcare had to file for bankruptcy in times of emergency and the gas-price shock of last summer dealt a blow to the economy because of its dependence on foreign sources of fossil fuels.

"At the end of the day, the best way to bring our deficit down in the long run is not with a budget that continues the very same policies that have led to a narrow prosperity and massive debt. It's with a budget that leads to broad economic growth by moving from an era of borrow and spend to one where we save and invest. And that's [what] clean energy jobs and businesses will do all across America. That's what a highly skilled workforce can do all across America. That's what an efficient health care system that controls costs and entitlements like Medicare and Medicaid will do," said Obama.

"That's why this budget is inseparable from this recovery -- because it is what lays the foundation for a secure and lasting prosperity," he argued.

Those may be important investments, said Snowe, but they should be taken separately. "I think to have this connected -- you know, 'If you don't do this, its going to [harm] the recovery' -- I think people think we've spent enough. The question is, 'How much do we need to spend on this budget and beyond?'"